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Strategic Aid for Escort Tugs at Work

SAFETOW will provide masters of disabled vessels and masters of salvage and escort tugs with support tools, which will enable them to take decisions in real time with the best available information regarding the consequence of their actions.

Tags: Water


Between January 1992 and March 1999, a total of 593 merchant ships were lost. If SAFETOW had been available there is quite a good probability that, in many of these cases, the accidents would have been avoided. For instance, in the Amoco Cadiz accident, if action had been taken early enough to control the drift this would have prevented the grounding of the ship and the spilling of 227 000 tons of crude oil, with a cost of about €282 million. If SAFETOW is able to prevent even one such disaster in the future it will have paid back many times over the investment being proposed. From the point of view of commercial exploitation, we are forecasting a turnover of around €20 million over the first three years following the end of the project, of which we would expect well over €10 million to be profit. The consortium includes a ship owner association (CONSAR), a port authority (Gijon), one of the world’s major salvors (SMIT Salvage), a supplier of shipboard navigational systems (STN ATLAS Marine Electronics), a salvage association and supplier of manoeuvring simulators (BMT), a classification society (Bureau Veritas) and an academic institution (the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde).


The overall objective of this project is to:

  1. provide masters of vessels with tools to help them control their vessels if they become disabled and
  2. provide masters of salvage and escort tugs with tools which will enable them to take decisions in real time with the best available information regarding the consequence of their actions.
The project encompasses an experimental programme which collects manoeuvring data, including collaborative manoeuvring with more than one tug. This data will be analysed and used as a basis of validation for the simulation software. The software will then be integrated with the vessels’ bridge systems to provide real-time help and decision support, training capability and monitoring.

Description of work

SAFETOW builds on innovative technologies to develop easily parameterisable modular solutions for

  • a manoeuvring aid
  • a towing aid
  • a lines monitor

The manoeuvring aid is aimed at tankers and will advise the disabled ship on the likely results of any manoeuvre (or lack of). Even when a ship is disabled there are a few actions available to it which will have an effect on the way it is drifting. It is, however, essential to forecast accurately the consequences of any such action so as to be sure of taking the appropriate decision. The manoeuvring model will be able to predict the drift mode accurately and it will also make suggestions about the most advisable course of action.

The towing aid is aimed at escort and salvage tugs. It will have a full model of the tug plus configurable and easily parametrisable models of the towed vessel and other involved tugs. This will allow the manoeuvring model of the whole tug plus the disabled tanker system to be put together in real time out of pre-existing models and a few basic parameters.

The lines monitor will assist the tug crews in determining whether the towing equipment is being stressed, which is usually a sign of problems in the towing configuration.

The accuracy of all these models will depend to a great extent on the quality of the data. An experimental programme will be run to collect high quality.


The experimental programme has been run and the system components have been created and tested as stand-alone products. The work of the final year will cover the full validation of the integrated system.